A spectacularly preserved Iron Age arrow – with its iron arrowhead, tendon casings and aerodynamic feathers – is now in the hands of glacial archaeologists in Norway.
It is rare for the fletching of arrows to be preserved, as the delicate feathers that help guide the arrow in flight usually decay over time. The arrows of Ötzi the ice cream manwho died around 5,300 years ago in what is now the Italian Alps, also retained their empennage, although their condition was not as good as that of this recently discovered 1,700-year-old arrowhead, the researchers said. archaeologists.
“I think it may just be Ötzi’s find that preserved the fletching on the arrows, but his arrow fletches are nowhere as well preserved as some of ours,” Lars Pilø, archaeologist at the Department of Cultural Heritage, Innlandet County Council, Norway, co-director of the Glacier Archeology Programme, told Live Science in an email.
However, “his are also older, by several thousand years, so it’s not to dissolve Ötzi’s arrows,” Pilø said.
Related: Iron Age skis buried under ice reunited after 1,300 years apart
Archaeologists found the 31.5-inch-long (80 centimeters) spire while investigating an undisclosed site in the Jotunheimen mountains in southern Norway in 2019, glacial archeology group Secrets of the Ice announced on Twitter April 28.
“It’s probably the best-preserved arrowhead we’ve found so far,” said Pilø, who is also editor of the Secrets of the Ice website. For example, the tendon, wrapped around the forward end of the arrow shaft to reduce the risk of fracture on impact, is still “tightly wrapped” and in place, he said. Remnants of the thread and tar used to make the arrow are also present.
“No determination of wood species has been made, but trees of this type tend to be made from pine,” Pilø added. “Hopefully it will be possible to find out which birds the feathers come from, which animal the tendons come from, etc.”
The team decided to forgo radiocarbon dating, as they would have to destroy part of the arrow when taking a sample to test its carbon isotopes (variants of the element carbon). They would prefer the entire spire remain intact when displayed in a museum, he said.
But, because this style of arrowhead is well known, it is fairly easy to date. “The type of shaft is known from Danish weapon sacrifices found in bogs, and the arrowhead is also a well-known type from graves in southern Norway,” Pilø said, so it is likely that this weapon dates from between 300 and 600 AD.
At that time hunters would have gone into the mountains and used arrows like this to shoot reindeerhe added.
This arrow is one of eight discovered by Secrets of the Ice during the 2019 survey. Archaeologists hope to find more artifacts soon, as Norwegian glaciers are melting due to climate change. In one instance, the team found a spire at the edge of the ice at a site in 2013. “The location of this find is now 100m [328 feet] ice cream,” Pilø said.
Originally posted on Live Science.